‘Lamp Lit Prose’ too complicated for its own good

Photo courtesy of Domino Records

On July 13 the experimental rock band Dirty Projectors released their eighth studio album titled “Lamp Lit Prose.”

The band, which centers on vocalist and songwriter Dave Longstreth, recently went through something of a crisis, with Longstreth becoming dissatisfied with his work and allowing the group to fall apart.

Longstreth intends “Lamp Lit Prose” to be a renewal of the group and a return to the style of songwriting that he started the project with.

The new album is instrumentally more traditional than the group’s other recent work, with the backbone of each track consisting of real instruments and electronic effects intervening largely only to supplement instrumentation and provide emphasis.

The album’s greatest strength is probably the diversity of the tracks’ textures. Each song feels and sounds completely unique and fresh, and this keeps the listener engaged and interested in what Longstreth has to say.

Structurally, however, the listening experience suffers.

It’s not that Longstreth got lazy with the structures of his songs. Each song is disjointed and jarring in its own unique way, with constantly changing tempos and frequent tone shifts. Longstreth is clearly a talented and creative composer capable of writing complex and unique pieces.

The trouble is, the listener must remain extremely attentive to notice the subtle differences in the way the songs are structured. Superficially, the structure of the songs feels repetitive. Sure, each song is disjointed in a unique way, but the first thing the listener notices is that all of the songs are disjointed, and this becomes frustrating and boring.

Few of the songs on this album grab the listener’s attention convincingly. Most don’t offer much unique or interesting, and to derive enjoyment from these tracks the listener must go out of his way to analyze them closely.

There are some decent songs on “Lamp Lit Prose.” “Zombie Conqueror” isn’t exactly a flowing song, but its cyclical riffs are less jarring than the structure of most of the tracks on the album. Additionally, while there are tone shifts and tempo changes throughout the song, Longstreth does not overdo it on this one.

The song manages to be distinctive and unique without losing its pleasantness. “Zombie Conqueror” is probably the only truly fun track to listen to on the album. The energetic guitar stabs and Longstreth’s shouts of “zombie conqueror” make the song rousing and agreeable.

“What Is the Time” is also a very good song. Its moderate tempo paired with a relaxed vocal approach demonstrate the influence of modern pop music on Longstreth’s style.

“What Is the Time” is probably the most commercially viable song on the album, and is if anything softer on the ears than “Zombie Conqueror.” It is certainly the only song on the album which could be called relaxing, and it comes as a relief.

“You’re the One” comes in at a distant third in quality among tracks on the album. It is a slow monologue and while it is not quite as memorable as “Zombie Conqueror” or “You’re the One,” it is easy and enjoyable to listen to, even if only in the background.

While “Lamp Lit Prose” contains some sophistocated songwriting and a unique approach to musical structure, it ultimately falls victim to its own ambition. To make a quality and original album, one must first focus on making a listenable album.